The history of human culture can be viewed as the progressive development of new energy sources and their associated conversion technologies. Advances in our understanding of energy have produced unparalleled transformations of society, as exemplified by James Watt’s steam engine and the discovery of oil. These transformations increased the ability of humans to exploit both additional energy and other resources, and hence to increase the comfort, longevity, and affluence of humans, as well as their numbers. Energy is related to human development in three important ways: as a motor of economic growth, as a principal source of environmental stress, and as a prerequisite for meeting basic human needs. Significant changes in each of these aspects of human existence are associated with changes in energy sources, beginning with the discovery of fire, the advent of agriculture and animal husbandry, and, ultimately, the development of hydrocarbon and nuclear fuels. The eventual economic depletion of fossil fuels will drive another major energy transition; geopolitical forces and environmental imperatives such as climate change may drive this transition faster than hydrocarbon depletion would have by itself. There is a diverse palette of alternatives to meet our energy needs, including a new generation of nuclear power, unconventional sources of hydrocarbons, myriad solar technologies, hydrogen, and more efficient energy end use. Each alternative has a different combination of economic, political, technological, social, and environmental attributes.
Energy is the common link between the living and non-living realms of the universe, and thus provides an organizing intellectual theme for diverse disciplines. Formalization of the concept of energy and identification of the laws governing its use by 19th century physical scientists such as Mayer and Carnot are cornerstones of modern science and engineering.
The study of energy has played a pivotal role in understanding the creation of the universe, the origin of life, the evolution of human civilization and culture, economic growth and the rise of living standards, war and geopolitics, and significant environmental change at local, regional, and global scales.
The unique importance of energy among natural resources makes information about all aspects of its attributes, formation, distribution, extraction, and use an extremely valuable commodity. The Encyclopedia of Energy is designed to deliver this information in a clear and comprehensive fashion. It uses an integrated approach that emphasizes not only the importance of the concept in individual disciplines such as physics and sociology, but also how energy is used to bridge seemingly disparate fields, such as ecology and economics. As such, this Encyclopedia provides the first comprehensive, organized body of knowledge for what is certain to continue as a major area of scientific study in the 21st century. It is designed to appeal to a wide audience including undergraduate and graduate students, teachers, academics, and research scientists who study energy, as well as business corporations, professional firms, government agencies, foundations, and other groups whose activities relate to energy.
Comprehensive and interdisciplinary are two words I use to describe the Encyclopedia. It has the comprehensive coverage one would expect: forms of energy, thermodynamics, electricity generation, climate change, energy storage, energy sources, the demand for energy, and so on. What makes this work unique, however, is its breadth of coverage, including insights from history, society, anthropology, public policy, international relations, human and ecosystem health, economics, technology, physics, geology, ecology, business management, environmental
science, and engineering. The coverage and integration of the social sciences is a unique feature.
The interdisciplinary approach is employed in the treatment of important subjects. In the case of oil, as one example, there are entries on the history of oil, the history of OPEC, the history of oil prices, oil price volatility, the formation of oil and gas, the distribution of oil resources, oil exploration and drilling, offshore oil, occupational hazards in the oil industry, oil refining, energy policy in the oil industry, the geopolitics of oil, oil spills, oil transportation, public lands and oil development, social impacts of oil and gas development, gasoline additives and public health, and the environmental impact of the Persian Gulf War. Other subjects are treated in a similar way.
This has been a massive and extremely satisfying effort. As with any work of this scale, many people have contributed at every step of the process, including the staff of Academic Press/Elsevier. The project began through the encouragement of Frank Cynar and David Packer, with Frank helping to successfully launch the initiative. Henri van Dorssen skillfully guided the project through its completion. He was especially helpful with integrating the project formulation, production, and marketing aspects of the project. Chris Morris was with the project throughout, and displayed what I can only describe as an uncanny combination of vision, enthusiasm, and energy for the project. I owe Chris a great deal for his insight and professionalism. I spent countless hours on the phone with Robert Matsumura, who was the glue that held the project together. Chris and Robert were ably assisted by outstanding Academic Press/Elsevier staff, especially Nick Panissidi, Joanna Dinsmore, and Mike Early. Clare Marl and her team put together a highly effective and creative marketing plan.
At the next stage, the Editorial Board was invaluable in shaping the coverage and identifying authors. The Board is an outstanding collection of scholars from the natural, social, and engineering sciences who are recognized leaders in their fields of research. They helped assemble an equally impressive group of authors from every discipline and who represent universities, government agencies, national laboratories, consulting firms, think tanks, corporations, and nongovernmental organizations. I am especially proud of the international scope of the authors: more than 400 authors from 40 nations are represented from every continent and every stage of development. To all of these, I extend my thanks and congratulations.
Cutler Cleveland Boston University Boston, Massachusetts, United States